What's in a Press Release?

Do you even need a press release? I do and did, not only for my first book, but for each one of them. Maybe you do, too. A press release serves as a calling card when reaching out to media outlets. Press releases showcase our books, spreading the word about them, and helping expand our audience.

These days, I’m fortunate to have my publisher create my press release, but early on, I was on my own. Studying sell sheets (another name for a press release) from bigger authors was how I learned about the elements to use:

1. Headline: Short and catchy (no more than 20 words), this should grab the reader’s attention and highlight your book. Basics in a headline: Title, logline, or a quote.

2. Contact info – The usual: name, email, phone, website. Simple, right?

3. Publication Date: “For release on [date]” or simply note “For immediate release.”

4. Cover Photo: A high-resolution photo of your book cover can really add some pizazz.

5. In no particular order, this is what is typically in the body content:  Starting point – a short paragraph introducing you and your book in a compelling way. One or two sentences describing your book will do. Or you can be more creative. What do you love about your book? Think about the opening chapter. What did you do to draw your readers right in? The second short paragraph is a detailed description of the book (think: back cover copy). The third brief paragraph may include a quote from a book reviewer or a notable person endorsing the book. The fourth paragraph lists where to buy the book, or launch event details (date, time, location, contact info). Write the press release in 3rd person (no “I” or “We”).

6. Closing/Bio: Finish with a short author bio. 

Don’t take editing for granted! Make sure your press release is polished till it glows in the dark. My most successful press release was one that started out with a description of a secondary character and the inciting incident that started it all. The possibilities are endless!


Things That Amaze Me

I’m amazed by the things that amaze me, especially in my writer’s life. They’re reminders that I need to pause and be grateful, to thoroughly enjoy each moment, and to be sure that I carry with me, and use, good thoughts, good words, and good deeds. 

I can’t possibly list all the amazing things, but here are two recent highlights:

– It was a long haul to drive from my home to the recent Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Traffic snarls, not quite knowing the way, and parking really tripped me up. By the time I arrived, I was ready to turn around and motor back. I’m glad I didn’t. Even with the holdups, I arrived ten minutes early, which gave me a chance to visit a few booths where I met wonderful people, bought enjoyable books, and relaxed before my book signing.

While signing, many, many lovely humans stopped by to chat. Talented authors surrounded me. It gave me great joy not just to promote my own books, but the books from the writers sitting around me, such as Lark O Jensen and Iris Yamashita. After I left my signing, a gentlemen stopped me and said, “You’re the author. I wish you great book success!” I wasn’t sure if he was mixing me up with someone else, but it at that moment, I was happy to be that author, or any author, for that matter. The day was a success, not only because of my book sales, but because of the kind humans that made my day. Who doesn’t want to be around happy people? A little shift in my mind made a monumental difference.

– A few weeks prior, I had another book event in Morro Bay at Coalesce Bookstore. It was a live reading with other authors where we shared scenes from our books. By shared, I mean we acted out various parts and characters. I channeled my inner Reba for a Southern accent, my inner diva for a demanding, mixed-up lady on vacation, and my inner, fearless PI to play the heroine featured in my series. All of which were way out of my comfort zone… and such a blast! Again, amazing due to a simple change in attitude: I can do this! Sometimes, that’s all it takes.

What Happens After "The End?"

After that glorious moment of sending off a completed manuscript to the publisher, I rejoice, a little nervously, as I await edits. It truly is a time worth celebrating and appreciating. Reaching The End of a ~77,000 word novel is not for the faint-hearted. It’s like building a skyscraper with only seven tools on hand: imagination, heart, experience, emotions, research, perseverance, and either a computer or a pen and paper. Perseverance is paramount. After all, how will you reach The End if you give up?

You’re done. What’s next?

How about taking a few days off to kick back, recharge, and regenerate those weary brain cells? Take as long as you like! That is, until your edits come in. Sometimes, finding ways to distract oneself, that sort of relate to writing, helps massage the brain cells, preparing them for the next round. Diving into that ten-story high To Be Read pile that’s about to topple over can be rewarding. I love reading books in the genre I write, and in other genres, as well as nonfiction. Inspiring books make my mind soar; and I truly appreciate those reads that make me think or see another side to something. But what’s my favorite distraction? Writing!

A short story might pop out during my down time. Writing short keeps me sharp. Telling a story in 5000 words or less means every extra word’s gotta go. A children’s story is a wonderful challenge because it’s  not only short (under 1000 words), but has to have that special readability factor that makes it engaging enough for youngsters and their adults to want to read over and over again. That’s an ambitious, yet marvelous feat.

But I mustn’t forget one last challenging item that remains: creating the descriptive blurb for the back cover. Did you know that writers come up with that? At least this one does.  Condensing what a whole book is about into less than 200 words? Impossible! That’s what I say every time, until I write it up. Just like the novel.